Nothing takes more guts than standing onstage and promising to amuse an audience with just a microphone and your thoughts. Stand-up comedy requires a certain kind of talent that blends fearlessness with intellect and charisma, all deployed in precisely chosen words that land with the right tone and timing. 

Now that a poorly conceived idea can be shown to everyone and never deleted, comedians have become even more necessary for clearing the fog of timid over-seriousness that floats around our most sensitive topics. In a constantly shifting and confusing world, most public figures weave tangled rhetorical knots with their speech, aiming to cloak their actual beliefs and intentions under a sheet of respectability. Comedians cut the bullshit.

They wade into the subjects avoided in polite conversation to test their substance, weigh their importance and mock the phony aspects as they strive towards truth, or at least, valid subjective opinions. They can offend or make points that age like milk, but when they can also bring low the powerful and reframe the way we think about race, politics, religion, society, relationships and ourselves while inspiring compassion between people—because nothing erases division like laughing at the same thing. 

If your fave isn’t on here, allow me to mimic the best comedians and state the honest truth: the headline says “Best” for SEO purposes. I am barely an authority and the rankings are subjective. These people make me laugh and I think they will do the same for you. Enjoy.